post by Rachel Pastan
“I’m not sure what table size you need,” Eric says. “I did the ultimate. If you get 250 people at this party, you can fit them in.”
We all look down at the sketch of possible table arrangements while Eric, who runs the interior design firm Fury Design with his partner Jim, talks about birch trees and the mise-en-scene he envisions for the center of the space. “My idea is that they’re going to hover. I’ll have nine-foot saplings that they’ll cut early.” He has plans for real sod growing with rye grass, for glitter sprayed lightly through the branches as though the wind has blown it there, and for seventy yards of white scrim fabric to be drawn dramatically back when it’s time for the dinner to begin. A glittering ball will hang above the birches: an indoor moon.
“You don’t see any live flowers?” Sam asks.
“Not enough impact. But if we knew anyone who had ten little French chairs! Or those gold ballroom chairs people rent.”
“I have a lot of those,” Hilarie says. “Like a hundred.”
This is a meeting of the décor committee for ICA’s 2012 spring benefit, our big annual fundraiser at which we honor a significant member of the museum community. This year the honoree is Karen Kilimnik, whose mid-career retrospective—curated at ICA by Ingrid Schaffner—traveled the country in 2007, exposing thousands of new admirers to the artist’s work in photography, installation, drawing, and painting. A native Philadelphian, Karen Kilimnik explores perceptions of glamor and fantasy from Kate Moss to ballerinas, from Madonna to Diana Rigg in The Avengers.
From the moment she agreed to be honored at this event, we have been imagining how to shape the Benefit around Karen’s distinctive sensibility, which draws on the romantic tradition and pop culture, on nature and history. I’ve heard the look we’re going for described variously as “whimsical and glittery” and as “decrepit elegance.” The pale pink invitations, designed by Ominvore, boast two gold Ks intertwined to form an elegant chandelier. How to translate this into tablecloths and centerpieces is, however, still an open question.
Karen herself, when asked about the evening’s look, suggested an alpine, winter, farm animal motif. She even made a new artwork—a small pastel of two alert, pinkish sheep in a greenish meadow—for the invitation. The original pastel will be raffled off to a donor at our Golden Muse donor level. (A Charline von Heyl print will be given to donors at both the Golden Muse and the lower-tiered Muse level, permitting many guests to go home with more art than they had when they arrived.)
At the décor meeting, the talk turns to candles: simple glass votives lining the tables, enhanced here and there, perhaps, by a leaning chandelier.
“I’m happy to have a big chandelier leaning against the dessert table as though it fell out of the ceiling,” Eric says.
“That’s very Karen,” Babs says. “People are going to feel they’re walking into a different space than they’ve ever walked into before.”
The committee discusses about the dessert table. Cupcakes are suggested, decorated with sheep reproduced in icing from Karen’s pastel. (“Half the people don’t eat dessert,” one committee member warns, but another says, “They’ll eat cupcakes.) From cupcakes, the conversation turns (naturally) to chocolate farm animals and marshmallow Peeps.
“Peeps are made locally,” Eric observes, gathering up color samples as the meeting winds down.
“Yes,” Babs agrees. “They’re made in Philadelphia.”
Just like Karen Kilimnik.
* * *
Sheep image above: Karen Kilimnik, Sheep in England, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and 303 Gallery. photo: Simon Greenberg
For more information about Benefit 2012, click here.
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